Zwei Terzette for Piano Trio, Op.97
Theodor Kirchner (1823-1903) was widely considered to be the undisputed master of the character piece, a short kind of free form work. Kirchner literally wrote hundreds of such pieces which can rightly be considered little gems, little masterpieces.
He was born in the town of Neukirchen near Chemnitz in the German province of Saxony. He showed a prodigious musical talent at an early age, however, his father was reluctant to let him study music. It was only after hearing both Schumann and Mendelssohn highly praise his sonís talent that he permitted Theodor to attend the Leipzig Conservatory, where he studied with Mendelssohn, among others. It was upon Mendelssohnís recommendation that Kirchner in 1843 obtained his first position as organist of the main church in Winterthur in Switzerland. He was a friend of both Robert and Clara Schumann as well as Brahms.
Kirchnerís compositional talent was widely respected and held in the highest regard by Schumann, Brahms, Liszt, Wagner and many others. But Kirchner, found himself unable to write large scale works. Rather, he excelled at writing miniatures. He would often write several at a time and then publish them together, each with a different mood and feel and each perfect in its own way. Though primarily known, during his lifetime, as an organist, pianist and teacher, he wrote more than 1,000 works, most are short and for the piano, although he did write a small amount of very appealing chamber music, primarily for piano trio.
Kirchner was also generally considered to be the finest arranger of his time. And in the 19th century, there was great demand for arrangements of large works such as symphonies or big chamber works that could be played by a piano trio or piano four hands. Both Schumann and Brahms would only allow Kirchner to arrange their works for these small groups. His arrangements were brilliantly executed and effective as artistic works in their own right. Some critics held them to be better than the originals, hard though that may be to believe today. Publishers sought him out to arrange Beethoven and Mozart symphonies and many other famous works.
Composed in 1894, the Zwei Terzette (in English two little trios) were not published until the year after Kirchner's death. The first of these, Andante, begins in the fashion of a lullaby or barcarolle with its gentle rocking rhythm and tender melody. But after a short time a stormy section interrupts the proceedings. It is full of drama and brings a sense of urgency with it. However, in the end, the beautiful calm of the opening bars is restored. The main subject of the second trio, Allegretto poco vivace, is given a playful and teasing quality by its slinky melody and quirky rhythm.
The 1904 edition disappeared shortly after the First World War. We have reprinted it though making a few improvements. Either of these little works would make a perfect encore or together a fine shorter selection between two longer works.